Ajourney that began more than six and half years ago is closer to the
finish line for Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and those who support his bill, the
Melanie Blocker Stokes Postpartum Depression Research and Care Act (HR 20).
The House of Representatives passed it by a vote of 382 to 3 in October
(Psychiatric News, November
Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush stands with Nafisa Ghadiali, M.D., a member of
the Illinois Psychiatric Society. She works at the Illinois Perinatal Mental
Health Project of the Women's Mental Health Program in the Department of
Psychiatry at the University of Illinois.
Credit: Meryl Sosa
Earlier this fall Rush discussed his bill at a press conference in
Illinois. Others who spoke included Carol Blocker, Melanie Blocker Stokes's
mother; and Nafisa Ghadiali, M.D., a member of the Illinois Psychiatric
Society. She represented the society and APA at the press conference.
"The IPS and APA strongly support this legislation and will work with
Rep. Rush and others to get it passed through the Senate and into law,"
said Ghadiali. "Postpartum depression affects 9.4 percent to 12.71
percent of women giving birth in the United States, and many of them remain
undiagnosed and untreated."
Six years ago Rush was contacted by Melanie Blocker Stokes's mother, who
had reported her daughter missing and was especially concerned because of
Stokes's deep depression. Stokes had become so depressed shortly after she had
given birth to a daughter that she had stopped eating and drinking and began
searching for a way to end her life. She was hospitalized three times in seven
weeks; she was given medication and electroconvulsive therapy.
The day after she called Rush, Blocker discovered that Stokes had jumped to
her death from the 12th floor of a Chicago hotel. Rush realized that something
had to be done to prevent such tragedies and made it his mission to do so. He
was contacted by another one of his constituents, Nada Stotland, M.D., now APA
president-elect, who helped Rush understand the need for funding for research,
education, and treatment for this very serious mental illness.
Among the goals of Rush's legislation are to encourage more funding for
research on postpartum depression at the National Institutes of Health and the
Health Resources and Services Administration; finance a national public
awareness campaign on this illness and educate health care professionals about
screening new mothers and identifying those who need treatment; and finance
grants to public or nonprofit entities to establish and operate programs that
provide screening, treatment, and various health care and support services to
individuals with postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis.
Rush is working with Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Richard Durbin
(D-Ill.) on recruiting sponsors for the bill in the Senate. ▪